Ariane 5 returns to action with SGDC and Koreasat-7 launch

by Chris Bergin

Arianespace returned to action on Thursday with the long-awaited launch of its Ariane 5 rocket – following a delay caused by a local “social movement”. Ariane 5 lofted the SGDC and Koreasat-7 satellites from the European Spaceport in Kourou, deep into the launch window at 21:50 GMT. A late fuel load and a telementry based issue caused the launch to move later into the evening.

Ariane 5 Launch:

This mission was originally set to launch in March, before a local “social movement” – effectively a local strike, as much as locals refuse to allow such a description – halted all operations at the Kourou facility.

The “social movement” resulted in roadblocks and caused a delay to the rollout of the Ariane 5 for her original launch date target.

The original hope was for discussions between local officials to quickly resolve the protest. However, this dragged on for weeks.

The CSG-centric strike was led by the ENDEL workers, protesting in relation to the yearly collective accord negotiations. These were joined by the transporters’ union UGTR, protesting against their foreseen reduced role in the spaceport with Ariane 6.

Eventually, the French government got involved with the discussions, aiming to resolve the dispute and return CSG back to action. The protest leader than admitted it was not in the best interests to continue with the roadblocks. Eventually, an agreement was reached and the spaceport returned back into pre-launch operations.

“All open. Full operations restart Monday. We express to our dear customers our apologies and we thank them for their support and patience,” noted Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël.

With the spaceport back in action, the delayed dual satellite launch could take place, while the rest of the near-term manifest lines up for a quick return to a regular launch cadence.

This mission, designated Flight VA236 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, was the seventh all-Thales Alenia Space mission, as both satellites were built by this manufacturer. This was the fourth launch of the year for Arianespace, the second for the Ariane 5 which will now have to play catch up on its 2017 manifest.

The mission’s total payload lift performance was 10,289 kg. – with the spacecraft heading to a geostationary transfer orbit. SGDC is the mission’s upper passenger and has a liftoff mass estimated at 5,735 kg., with KOREASAT-7 installed as the lower passenger with a mass at liftoff of approximately 3,680 kg.

The nominal duration of Flight VA236 from liftoff to separation of the satellites was 36 minutes, 46 seconds.

SGDC is the first Brazilian government satellite, as well as the initial spacecraft to be launched by Arianespace for Visiona Tecnologia Espacial S.A. – the SGDC prime contractor, responsible for the program management, overall system integration and end-to-end communication.

This dual-use (civil and military) relay platform will enable the implementation of a secure satellite communications system for the Brazilian government and armed forces, while also reducing the digital divide in Brazil.

The SGDC spacecraft will be operated and controlled by Telebras, a Brazilian telecommunication company managed by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication.

Based on the Spacebus 4000C4 platform, the SGDC platform carries 57 transponders in Ka- and X-band. It will have a liftoff mass estimated at 5,735 kg., and is to be positioned at an orbital slot of 75 deg. West.

The KOREASAT-7 passenger on Flight VA236 is designed to provide improved throughput and wider coverage over Korea, Philippines, Indochina, India, and Indonesia.

Equipped with Ku-band and Ka-band transponders, it will have a liftoff mass of approximately 3,680 kg. and is built on an upgraded Spacebus 4000B2 platform. The satellite’s added steerable Ka-band capacity is designed to support further demand in relay services.

Once in its orbital slot of 116 deg. East, KOREASAT-7 will be operated by KT SAT – a wholly-owned subsidiary of KT Corp., which is the largest telecom/media service provider in South Korea and the country’s sole satellite service provider.

KOREASAT-7 was the third KOREASAT satellite to be launched by Arianespace for ktsat, following KOREASAT-3 and KOREASAT-6, launched in September 1999 and December 2010, respectively.

(Images via Arianespace).

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